Speed may be king for the modern traveller but the romance of old-world, long-distance train travel has lost none of its allure. Inspired by our role in a lavish new film adaptation of timeless classic Murder on the Orient Express, we take a look at some of the world’s greatest journeys by train.
Coming to cinemas this November is a new Hollywood production of Agatha Christie’s best-selling 1934 detective novel Murder on the Orient Express. Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley and Josh Gad are just some of the famous faces starring as the group of strangers who find themselves at the centre of Hercule Poirot’s murder investigation – where everyone is a suspect.
Globe-Trotter is no stranger to the big screen, and was a natural choice for the Murder on the Orient Express, given our unique, vintage aesthetic and popularity during the story’s setting. Everything about us recalls the days of romantic travel, just like these contemporary luxury trains – they will transport you to a bygone era as well as, more literally, through some of the world’s most spectacular and unspoiled scenery.
Relive the glamour of the 1930s (hopefully without the need to summon Monsieur Poirot) onboard what is still the world’s most famous train. The legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express takes a slightly different route to that depicted in Agatha Christie's novel, which began in Aleppo, Syria. Today the train travels between some of Europe's most iconic cities between March and November and once a year makes the historic journey to Istanbul. Expect a refined world where impeccably dressed staff attend to your every need, meals are served over four courses and afternoon tea is taken on a daily basis. And, if you can bear to look up from your Champagne flute for five minutes, you’ll also be privy to some rather unforgettable scenery.
The ultimate in epic train journeys is the great Trans-Siberian Railway, which has been transporting passengers nearly 10,000 kilometres across Russia since 1916. The classic route connects Moscow with Vladivostok in Russia’s far east, with two variations available: the Trans-Mongolian route and the lesser known Trans-Manchurian. There are a number of different operators and itineraries to choose from, depending on time and budget, with the most luxurious option being the Golden Eagle Express, whose sumptuous interiors are a throwback to Jazz Age glamour. What better way to see the best of the Motherland’s vast and diverse landscape as you snake through snow-capped mountains, sprawling grasslands and skirt ancient lakes.
Seven Stars in Kyushu Cruise Train, Japan
Japan is known for its love of high-speed trains, but in 2013 the Kyushu Rail Company deliberately put the brakes on with the launch of the country’s first luxury sleeper train. The Seven Stars in Kyushu Cruise Train takes luxury to a new level and cost an eye-watering £20m to build. There are only 14 suites onboard, adding to the feeling of exclusivity, and the interiors embrace both western and eastern influences; think elegant rosewood and maple walls, intricate kumiko wooden latticework and hand-painted ceramic sinks. The pièce de résistance, however, is the incredible floor-to-ceiling window installed in the lounge carriage, where you’ll find yourself serenaded by the onboard pianist and violinist. The Seven Stars’ two and five-day itineraries are designed to show off the natural beauty of this little known semi-tropical island to the full. And, with its volcanic landscape, rice paddy fields and abundance of hot springs, it’s certainly enough to tempt you from your luxurious suite for all of ten minutes.
The Ghan, Australia
Australia’s vast coastlines are top of many a traveller’s to-do list, but the country’s barren red centre is a destination that’s very much off the beaten track. One way to explore Australia’s mysterious, sparsely populated centre is via The Ghan, a famous train journey named after the Afghan cameleers who once traversed the same route. This four-day, three-night journey crosses more than 3,000 kilometres of Aussie Outback, from Darwin to Adelaide, with plenty of adventurous day trips en route, starting with the iconic Uluru (Ayers Rock).
The Blue Train, South Africa
South Africa’s most famous locomotive wasn’t always so colourful. Built in the early 1920s, the trains were originally known as the Union Express northbound and Union Limited southbound, before a shiny new steel version was introduced in 1943. Affectionately referred to as ‘that blue train’ by locals, the train’s name was officially changed three years later. The route takes passengers between Pretoria and Cape Town – and vice-versa – covering some 1,600 kilometres of lush landscape. While South Africa’s scenery is the stuff of legends, it’s the Blue Train’s reputation for impeccable service that makes it a must-experience for every train lover. Expect the full five-star treatment while on board, including personal butler service, a main lounge serving high tea and, in the evening, a sumptuous five-course feast accompanied by copious amounts of South African wine – naturally.
Scott Dunn offers a seven-night South Africa itinerary from £4,600 per person based on two people staying three nights at Leeu Estates on a B & B basis, three nights at Cape View Clifton on a B & B basis and one night on The Blue Train on an all-inclusive basis, and includes return international flights and private transfers. For more information visit scottdunn.com.
About Murder on the Orient Express
What starts out as a lavish train ride through Europe quickly unfolds into one of the most stylish, suspenseful and thrilling mysteries ever told. From the novel by best-selling author Agatha Christie, “Murder on the Orient Express” tells the tale of thirteen strangers stranded on a train, where everyone’s a suspect. One man must race against time to solve the puzzle before the murderer strikes again. Kenneth Branagh directs and leads an all-star cast including Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley and Josh Gad.
Release: November 10, 2017
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Screenplay by: Michael Green
Based upon the Novel by: Agatha Christie
Produced by: Ridley Scott, Mark Gordon, Simon Kinberg, Kenneth Branagh, Judy Hofflund, Michael Schaefer
Cast: Tom Bateman, Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Marwan Kenzari, Olivia Colman, Lucy Boynton, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Sergei Polunin.